March Madness on Sling: First Round Action
There is more college hoops going on this month than any sane person could watch – but that’s no reason not to try.
TBS, truTV and TNT are each showing four games on Thursday, we wanted to make navigating each session much easier by highlighting one from each “day part” (as the folks in ad sales like to call it) along with the full slate of today’s action.
#9 Butler Bulldogs (21-10, 10-8 Big East) @ #8 Texas Tech Red Raiders (19-12, 9-9 Big 12) (12:40pm ET Thursday, TruTV)
Over the previous nine seasons, the Butler Bulldogs had four different coaches, played in three different conferences, made eight NCAA tournaments, went to two conference finals, and compiled a tournament record of 15-7, never losing to any team lower than a three-seed – all of which is to say these guys come to play. The Texas Tech Red Raiders survived a 1-7 mid-season slog, during which they lost to two different number-one-ranked teams and three other top-25 teams to win three in a row against nationally ranked schools. Texas Tech played a much tougher schedule, but Butler played much better basketball with a 9.4 point differential versus Texas Tech’s 2.6.
#12 Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (29-4, 17-3 Sun Belt) @ #5 Purdue Boilermakers (26-8, 12-6 Big 10) (4:30pm ET Thursday, TBS)
Only the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks won more games this season than the 29-4 Trojans, though Arkansas-Little Rock did it in a markedly weaker conference – two of ALR’s losses came against the 11-20 Arkansas State Red Wolves and the 9-22 Appalachian State Mountaineers. The Purdue Boilermakers had the 13th-best point differential in the country while playing in the toughest conference, but they went just 2-5 against ranked opponents. This is Purdue head coach Matt Painter’s 11th season and eighth NCAA appearance, during which they’ve never lost in the first round.
#14 Buffalo (20-14, 10-8 MAC) @ #3 Miami (25-7, 13-5 ACC) (6:50pm ET Thursday, TNT)
A year after then-coach Bobby Hurley used Buffalo’s first-ever NCAA appearance as a springboard to a more high-profile job at Arizona State, the Bulls and new head coach Nate Oats are back at the Big Dance while Hurley and the Sun Devils are wishing they’d made the NIT. Buffalo rolled across the Buckeye State, defeating Kent State, Ohio and Akron to win the MAC title and their ticket to the NCAA. Led by senior guard Sheldon McClellan (15.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.7apg), the Miami Hurricanes have played their toughest schedule ever, while playing their best basketball, according to Basketball Reference. The ‘Canes went 5-3 against ranked teams and tied for second in a tough ACC field.
#11 Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-7, 15-3 WCC) @ #6 Seton Hall Pirates (25-8, 12-6 Big East) (9:57pm ET Thursday, TruTV)
This is the ‘Zags’ 18th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance – the fifth longest streak in the country, going 22-18 in tournament play. Incredibly, they’ve done this without a single player good enough to go on the be a starter in the NBA (Adam Morrison, we hardly knew ye). This year’s team is led by senior Kyle Wiltjer’s 20.7 ppg and sophomore Domantas Sabonis' average 17.4 ppg and 11.6 rpg. Despite not cracking the top 25 all season, Seton Hall compiled an impressive record and then cleaned up in the Big East tourney by defeating #5 Xavier and #3 Villanova to earn their first NCAA bid since 2006.
For you serious junkies out there, here’s a complete list of today’s action:
#9 Butler (21-10, 10-8 Big East) @ #8 Texas Tech (19-12, 9-9 Big 12), 12:40pm ET Thursday, truTV
#9 Connecticut (24-10, 11-7 AAC) @ #8 Colorado (22-11, 10-8 Pac-12), 1:30pm ET Thursday, TNT
#13 Iona (22-10, 16-4 MAAC) @ #4 Iowa State (21-11, 10-8 Big 12), 2pm ET Thursday, TBS
#16 Hampton (21-10, 13-3 MEAC) @ #1 Virginia (26-7, 13-5 ACC), 3:10pm ET Thursday, truTV
#16 Austin Peay (18-17, 7-9 OVC) @ #1 Kansas (30-4, 15-3 Big 12), 4pm ET Thursday, TNT
#12 Arkansas-Little Rock (29-4, 17-3 Sun Belt) @ #5 Purdue (26-8, 12-6 Big 10), 4:30pm ET Thursday, TBS
#14 Buffalo (20-14, 10-8 MAC) @ #3 Miami (25-7, 13-5 ACC), 6:50pm ET Thursday, TNT
#16 Florida Gulf Coast (20-13, 8-6 A-Sun) @ #1 North Carolina (28-6, 14-4 ACC), 7:20pm ET Thursday, TBS
#14 Fresno State (25-9, 13-5 MWC) @ #3 Utah (26-8, 13-5 Pac 12), 7:27pm ET Thursday, truTV
#11 Wichita State (24-8, 16-2 MVC) @ #6 Arizona (25-8, 12-6 Pac 12), 9:20pm ET Thursday, TNT
#9 Providence (23-10, 10-8 Big East) @ #8 USC, 9:50pm ET Thursday, TBS
#11 Gonzaga (26-7, 15-3 WCC) @ #6 Seton Hall (25-8, 12-6 Big East), 9:57pm ET Thursday, truTV